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Full text of "Honour and dishonour. A speech by the Right Hon. D. Lloyd George ... at the Queen's hall, London, Sept. 19, 1914"

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SEPT. 19 1914 





A Speech by the Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd George, 
at Queen's Hall, London 

I HAVE come here this afternoon to talk to my fellow country- 
men about this great war and the part we ought to take in 
it. I feel my task is easier after we have been listen- 
ing to the greatest battle song in the world.* 

There is no man in this room who has always regarded the 
prospects of engaging in a great war with greater reluctance, 
with greater repugnance, than I have done throughout the whole 
of my political life. There is no man, either inside or outside of 
this room, more convinced that we could not have avoided it 
without national dishonour. I am fully alive to the fact that 
whenever a nation has been engaged in any war she has always 
invoked the sacred name of honour. Many a crime has been 
committed in its name ; there are some crimes being committed 
now. But, all the same, national honour is a reality, and any 
nation that disregards it is doomed. 

Why is our honour as a country involved in this war ? Because, 
in the first place, we are bound in an honourable obligation to 
defend the independence, the liberty, the integrity of a small 
neighbour that has lived peaceably, but she could not have com- 
pelled us, because she was weak. The man who declines to 
discharge his debt because his creditor is too poor to enforce it 
is a blackguard. We entered into this treaty, a solemn treaty, 
a full treaty, to defend Belgium and her integrity. Our signatures 
are attached to the document. Our signatures do not stand alone 
there. This was not the only country to defend the integrity of 
Belgium, Russia, France, Austria, and Prussia — they are all 
there. Why did they not perform the obligation ? It is suggested 
that if we quote this treaty it is purely an excuse on our part. 
It is our low craft and cunning, just to cloak our jealousy of a 
superior civilisation we are attempting to destroy. Our answer 
is the action we took in 1870. What was that ? Mr. Gladstone 
was then Prime Minister. Lord Granville, I think, was then 

* "The Men of Harlech." 

THE LIBK:*!^" 

Foreign Secretary. I have never heard it laid to their charge 
that they were ever jingo. 

What did they do in 1870 ? That Treaty Bond was this : we 
called upon the belligerent Powers to respect that treaty. We 
called upon France ; we called upon Germany. At that time, 
bear in mind, the greatest danger to Belgium came from France 
and not from Germany. We intervened to protect Belgium 
against France exactly as we are doing now to protect her against 
Germany. We are proceeding exactly in the same way. We 
invited both the belligerent Powers to state that they had no in- 
tention of violating Belgian territory. What was the answer 
given by Bismarck? He said it was superfluous to ask Prussia 
such a question in view of the treaties in force. France gave a 
similar answer. We received the thanks at that time from the 
Belgian people for our intervention in a very remarkable docu- 
ment. This is the document addressed by the municipality of 
Brussels to Queen Victoria after that intervention : 

" The great and noble people over whose destinies you 
preside have just given a further proof of its benevolent 
sentiments towards this country. The voice of the English 
nation has been heard above the din of arms. It has asserted 
the principles of justice and right. Next to the unalterable 
attachment of the Belgian people to their independence, the 
strongest sentiment which fills their hearts is that of an im- 
perishable gratitude to the people of Great Britain." 
That was in 1870. Mark what follows. 

Three or four days after that document of thanks the French 
Army was wedged up against the Belgian frontier. Every means 
of escape was shut up by a ring of flame from Prussian cannon. 
There was one way of escape. What was that ? By violating 
the neutrality of Belgium. What did they do ? The French on 
that occasion preferred ruin, humiliation, to the breaking of their 
bond. The French Emperor, French Marshals, 100,000 gallant 
Frenchmen in arms preferred to be carried captive to the strange 
land of their enemy rather than dishonour the name of their 
country. It was the last French Army defeat. Had they 
violated Belgian neutrality the whole history of that war would 
have been changed. And yet it was the interest of France to 
break the treaty. She did not do it. 

It is now the interest of Prussia to break the treaty, and she 
has done it. Well, why ? She avowed it with cynical contempt 
for every principle of justice. She says treaties only bind you 
when it is to your interest to keep them. " What is a treaty ? " 
says the German Chancellor. " A scrap of paper." Have you 
any ^5 notes about you ? I am not calling for them. Have you 
any of those neat little Treasury £1 notes? If you have, burn 
them ; they are only '* scraps of paper." What are they 
made of ? Rags. What are they worth ? The whole credit 


of the British Empire. " Scraps of paper." I have been 
dealing with scraps of paper within the last month. It is 
suddenly found the commerce of the world is coming to a stand- 
still. The machine had stopped. Why ? I will tell you. We 
discovered, many of us for the first time — I do not pretend to say 
that I do not know much more about the machinery of commerce 
to-day than I did six Aveeks ago, and there are a good many men 
like me — we discovered the machinery of commerce was moved 
by bills of exchange. I have seen some of them — wretched, 
crinkled, scrawled over, blotched, frowsy, and yet these wretched 
little scraps of paper moved great ships, laden with thousands of 
tons of precious cargo, from one end of the world to the other. What 
was the motive power behind them ? The honour of commercial 

Treaties are the currency of international statesmanship. Let 
us be fair. German merchants, German traders had the reputa- 
tion of being as upright and straightforward as any traders in 
the world. But if the currency of German commerce is to be 
debased to the level of her statesmanship, no trader from Shanghai 
to Valparaiso will ever look at a German signature again. This 
doctrine of the scrap of paper, this doctrine which is superscribed 
by Bernhardi as treaties which serve only as long as it is to its 
interest, goes to the root of public law. It is the straight road to 
barbarism, just as if you removed the magnetic pole whenever 
it was in the way of a German cruiser, the whole navigation of 
the seas would become dangerous, difficult, impossible, and the 
whole machinery of civilisation will break down if this doctrine 
wins in this war. 

We are fighting against barbarism. But there is only one way 
of putting it right. If there are nations that ay they will only 
respect treaties when it is to their interest to do so, we must make 
it to their interest to do so for the future. What is their defence ? 
Just look at the interview which took place between our Am- 
bassador and great German officials when their attention was 
called to this treaty to which they were partners. They said : 
" We cannot help that." Rapidity of action was the great 
German asset. There is a greater asset for a nation than rapidity 
of action, and that is — honest dealing. 

What are her excuses ? She said Belgium was plotting against 
her, that Belgium was engaged in a great conspiracy with Britain 
and with France to attack her. Not merely is that not true, but 
Germany knows it is not true. What is her other excuse ? 
France meant to invade Germany through Belgium. Absolutely 
untrue. France offered Belgium five army corps to defend her 
if she was attacked. Belgium said : " I don't require them. I 
have got the word of the Kaiser. Shall Caesar send a lie ? " 
All these tales about conspiracy have been fanned up since. The 
great nation ought to be ashamed, ought to be ashamed to behave 


like a fraudulent bankrupt perjuring its way with its complica- 
tions. She has deliberately broken this treaty, and we were in 
honour bound to stand by it. 

Belgium has been treated brutally, how brutally we shall not yet 
know. We know already too much. What has she done ? Did 
she send an ultimatum to Germany ? Did she challenge Ger- 
many ? Was she preparing to make war on Germany ? Had 
she ever inflicted any wrongs upon Germany which the Kaiser 
was bound to redress ? She was one of the most unoffending 
little countries in Europe. She was peaceable, industrious, thrifty, 
hard-working, giving offence to no one ; and her cornfields have 
been trampled down, her villages have been burned to the ground, 
her art treasures have been destroyed, her men have been 
slaughtered, yea, and her women and children, too. What had 
she done ? Hundreds of thousands of her people have had their 
quiet, comfortable little homes burned to the dust, and are 
wandering homeless in their own land. What is their crime ? 
Their crime was that they trusted to the word of a Prussian King. 
I don't know what the Kaiser hopes to achieve by this war. I 
have a shrewd idea of what he will get, but one thing is made 
certain, that no nation in future will ever commit that crime 

I am not going to enter into these tales. Many of them are 
untrue ; war is a grim, ghastly business at best, and I am not 
going to say that all that has been said in the way of tales of out- 
rage is true. I will go beyond that and say that if you turn two 
millions of men forced, conscripted, and compelled and driven into 
the field, you will certainly get among them a certain number of 
men who will do things that the nation itself will be ashamed of. 
I am not depending on them. It is enough for me to have the 
story which the Germans themselves avow, admit, defend, pro- 
claim. The burning and massacring, the shootmg down of 
harmless people — why ? Because, according to the Germans, 
they fired on German soldiers. What business had German sol- 
diers there at all ? Belgium was acting in pursuance of a most 
sacred right, the right to defend your own home. 

But they were not in uniform when they shot. If a burglar 
broke into the Kaiser's Palace at Potsdam, destroyed his furni- 
ture, shot down his servants, ruined his art treasures, especially 
those he made himself, burned his precious manuscripts, do you 
think he would wait until he got into uniform before he shot him 
down ? They were dealing with those who had broken into their 
households, but their perfidy has already failed. They entered 
Belgium to save time. The time has gone. They have not 
gained time, but they have lost their good name. 

But Belgium was not the only little nation that has been 
attacked in this war, and I make no excuse for referring to the 
case of the other little nation — the case of Servia. The history 


of Servia is not unblotted. What history in the category of 
nations is unblotted ? The first nation that is without sin, let her 
cast a stone at Servia. A nation trained in a horrible school, but 
she won her freedom with her tenacious valour, and she has 
maintained it by the same courage. If any Servians were mixed 
up in the assassination of the Grand Duke they ought to be 
punished. Servia admits that ; the Servian Government had 
nothing to do with it. Not even Austria claimed that. The 
Servian Prime Minister is one of the most capable and honoured 
men in Europe. Servia was willing to punish any one of her 
subjects who had been proved to have any complicity in that 
assassination. What more could you expect ? What were the 
Austrian demands ? Servia sympathised with her fellow-country- 
men in Bosnia. That was one of her crimes. She must do so 
no more. Her newspapers were saying nasty things about 
Austria. They must do so no longer. That is the Austrian 
spirit. You had it in Zabern. How dare you criticise a Customs 
official, and if you laugh it is a capital offence. The Colonel 
threatened to shoot them if they repeated it. 

Servian newspapers must not criticise Austria. I wonder what 
would have happened had we taken the same line about German 
newspapers. Servia said : " Very well, we will give orders to the 
newspapers that they must not criticise Austria in future, neither 
Austria, nor Hungary, nor anything that is theirs." Who can 
doubt the valour of Servia, when she undertook to tackle her 
newspaper editors ? She promised not to sympathise with Bosnia, 
promised to write no critical articles about Austria. She would 
have no public meetings at which anything unkind was said about 

That was not enough. She must dismiss from her army officers 
whom Austria should subsequently name. But these officers had 
just emerged from a war where they were adding lustre to the 
Servian arms — gallant, brave, efficient. I wonder whether it was 
their guilt or their efficiency that prompted Austria's action. 
But, mark, the officers were not named. Servia was to undertake 
in advance to dismiss them from the army ; the names to be sent 
on subsequently. Can you name a country in the world that 
would have stood that ? 

Supposing Austria or Germany had issued an ultimatum of that 
kind to this country. " You must dismiss from your Army and 
from your Navy all those officers whom we shall subsequently 
name!" Well, I think I could name them now. Lord Kitchener 
would go ; Sir John French would be sent about his business ; 
General Smith-Dorrien would be no more; and I am sure that 
Sir John Jellicoe would go. And there was another gallant old 
warrior that would go — Lord Roberts. 

It was a difficult situation. Here was a demand made upon 
her by a great military Power who could put five or six men in 


the field for every one she could ; and that Power supported by 
the greatest military Power in the world. How did Servia 
behave ? It is not what happens to you in life that matters ; it is 
the way in which you face it. And Servia faced the situation 
with dignity. She said to Austria, " If any officers of mine have 
been guilty and are proved to be guilty, I will dismiss them." 
Austria said, " That is not good enough for me." It was not guilt 
she was after, but capacity. 

Then came Russia's turn. Russia has a special regard for 
Servia. She has a special interest in Servia. Russians have 
shed their blood for Servian independence many a time. Servia 
is a member of her family, and she cannot see Servia maltreated. 
Austria knew that. Germany knew that, and Germany turned 
round to Russia and said, " Here, I insist that you shall stand by 
with your arms folded whilst Austria is strangling to death your 
little brother." What answer did the Russian Slav give ? He 
gave the only answer that becomes a man. He turned to Austria 
and said, " You lay hands on that little fellow and I will tear your 
ramshackle empire limb from limb." And he is doing it. 

That is the story of the little nations. The world owes much 
to little nations — and to little men. This theory of bigness — you 
must have a big empire and a big nation, and a big man — well, 
long legs have their advantage in a retreat. Frederick the Great 
chose his warriors for their height, and that tradition has become 
a policy in Germany. Germany applies that ideal to nations ; 
she will only allow six-feet-two nations to stand in the ranks. 
But all the world owes much to the little five feet high nations. 
The greatest art of the world was the work of little nations. The 
most enduring literature of the world came from little nations. 
The greatest literature of England came from her when she was 
a nation of the size of Belgium fighting a great Empire. The 
heroic deeds that thrill humanity through generations were the 
deeds of little nations fighting for their freedom. Ah, yes, and 
the salvation of mankind came through a little nation, God has 
chosen little nations as the vessels by which he carries the 
choicest wines to the lips of humanity, to rejoice their hearts, to 
exalt their vision, to stimulate and to strengthen their faith; and 
if we had stood by when two little nations were being crushed and 
broken by the brutal hands of barbarism our shame would have 
rung down the everlasting ages. 

But Germany insists that this is an attack by a low civilisation 
upon a higher. Well, as a matter of fact, the attack was begun 
by the civilisation which calls itself the higher one. Now, I am 
no apologist for Russia. She has perpetrated deeds of which I 
have no doubt her best sons are ashamed. But what Empire has 
not ? And Germany is the last Empire to point the finger of 
reproach at Russia ? But Russia has made sacrifices for freedom 
— great sacrifices. You remember the cry of Bulgaria when she 


was torn by the most insensate tyranny that Europe has ever 
seen. Who listened to the cry ? The only answer of the higher 
civilisation was that the liberty of Bulgarian peasants was not 
worth the life of a single Pomeranian soldier. But the rude 
barbarians of the North — they sent their sons by the thousands 
to die for Bulgarian freedom. 

What about England ? You go to Greece, the Nether- 
lands, Italy, Germany, and France, and all these lands, gentlemen, 
could point out to you places where the sons of Britain have died 
for the freedom of these countries. France has made sacrifices for 
the freedom of other lands than her own. Can you name a 
single country in the world for the freedom of which the modern 
Prussian has ever sacrificed a single life ? The test of our faith, 
the highest standard of civilisation is the readiness to sacrifice 
for others. 

I would not say a word about the German people to disparage 
them. They are a great people ; they have great qualities of 
head, of hand, and of heart. I believe, in spite of recent events, 
there is as great a store of kindness in the German peasant as in 
any peasant in the world. But he has been drilled into a false 
idea of civilisation, efficiency, capability. It is a hard civilisation; 
it is a selfish civilisation ; it is a material civilisation. They could 
not comprehend the action of Britain at the present moment. 
They say so. *' France," they say, " we can understand. She is 
out for vengeance, she is out for territory — Alsace Lorraine. 
Russia, she is fighting for mastery, she wants Galicia." They 
can understand vengeance, they can understand you fighting for 
mastery, they can understand you fighting for greed of territory ; 
they cannot understand a great Empire pledging its resources, 
pledging its might, pledging the lives of its children, pledging its 
very existence, to protect a little nation that seeks for its defence. 
God made man in his own image — high of purpose, in the region 
of the spirit. German civilisation would re-create him in the 
image of a Diesler machine — precise, accurate, powerful, with 
no room for the soul to operate. That is the "higher" 

What is their demand ? Have you read the Kaiser's speeches ? 
If you have not a copy, I advise you to buy it ; they will soon be 
out of print, and you won't have any more of the same sort again. 
They are full of the clatter and bluster of German militarists — 
the mailed fist, the shining armour. Poor old mailed fist — its 
knuckles are getting a little bruised. Poor shining armour — the 
shine is being knocked out of it. But there is the same swagger 
and boastfulness running through the whole of the speeches. 
You saw that remarkable speech which appeared in the " British 
Weekly " this week. It is a very remarkable product, as an illus- 
tration of the spirit we have got to fight. It is his speech to his 
soldiers on the way to the front : — 


Remember that the German people are the chosen of God. 
On me, on me as German Emperor, the Spirit of God has 
descended. I am His weapon, His sword and His vizard. 
Woe to the disobedient ! Death to cowards and unbe- 
hevers ! 
There has been nothing like it since the days of Mahomet. 

Lunacy is always distressing, but sometimes it is dangerous, 
and when you get it manifested in the head of the State, and it 
has become the policy of a great Empire, it is about time when 
that should be ruthlessly put away. I do not believe he meant 
all these speeches. It was simply the martial straddle which he 
had acquired ; but there were men around him who meant every 
word of it. This was their religion. Treaties ? They tangled 
the feet of Germany in her advance. Cut them with the sword. 
Little nations ? They hinder the advance of Germany. Trample 
them in the mire under the German heel. The Russian Slav ? 
He challenges the supremacy of Germany and Europe. Hurl 
your legions at him and massacre him. Britain ? She is a con- 
stant menace to the predominancy of Germany in the world. 
Wrest the trident out of her hands. Ah ! more than that. 
The new philosophy of Germany is to destroy Christianity. 
Sickly sentimentalism about sacrifice for others — poor pap for 
German digestion. We will have a new diet. We will force it 
on the world. It will be made in Germany. A diet of blood and 
iron. What remains ? Treaties have gone ; the honour of nations 
gone ; liberty gone. What is left ? Germany — Germany is left 
— Deutschland iiber AUes. That is all that is left. 

That is what we are fighting, that claim to predominancy 
of a civilisation, a material one, a hard one, a civilisation 
which if once it rules and sways the world, liberty goes, de- 
mocracy vanishes, and unless Britain comes to the rescue, 
and her sons, it will be a dark day for humanity. We are not 
fighting the German people. The German people are just as 
much under the heel of this Prussian military caste, and more so, 
thank God, than any other nation in Europe. It will be a day of 
rejoicing for the German peasant and artisan and trader when 
the military caste is broken. You know his pretensions. He 
gives himself the airs of a demi-god. Walking the pavements 
— civilians and their wives swept into the gutter ; they have no 
right to stand in the way of the great Prussian junker. Men, 
women, nations — they have all got to go. He thinks all he has 
got to say is, " We are in a hurry." That is the answer he gave to 
Belgium. " Rapidity of action is Germany's greatest asset," 
which means " I am in a hurry. Clear out of my way." 

You know the type of motorist, the terror of the roads, with a 
6o-horse power car. He thinks the roads are made for him, and 
anybody who impedes the action of his car by a single mile is 
knocked down. The Prussian junker is the road-hog of Europe. 


Small nationalities in his way hurled to the roadside, bleeding and 
broken ; women and children crushed under the wheels of his cruel 
car. Britain ordered out of his road. All I can say is this : if 
the old British spirit is alive in British hearts, that bully will be 
torn from his seat. Were he to win it would be the greatest 
catastrophe that has befallen democracy since the days of the 
Holy Alliance and its ascendancy. They think we cannot beat 
them. It will not be easy. It will be a long job. It will be a 
terrible war. But in the end we shall march through terror to 
triumph. We shall need all our qualities, every quality that 
Britain and its people possess. Prudence in council, daring in 
action, tenacity in purpose, courage in defeat, moderation in 
victory, in all things faith, and we shall win. 

It has pleased them to believe and to preach the belief that we 
are a decadent nation. They proclaim it to the world, through 
their professors, that we are an unheroic nation skulking behind 
our mahogany counters, whilst we are egging on more gallant 
races to their destruction. This is a description given to us in 
Germany — " a timorous, craven nation, trusting to its fleet." I 
think they are beginning to find their mistake out already. And 
there are half a million of young men of Britain who have already 
registered their vow to their King that they will cross the seas 
and hurl that insult against British courage against its perpe- 
trators on the battlefields of France and of Germany. And we 
want half a million more. And we shall get them.''' 

But Wales must continue doing her duty. That was a great 
telegram that you, my Lord (the Chairman), read from Gla- 
morgan. I should like to see a Welsh army in the field. I 
should like to see what the race who faced the Normans for 
hundreds of years in their struggle for freedom, the race that 
helped to win the battle of Crecy, the race that fought for a 
generation under Glendower, against the greatest captain in 
Europe — I should like to see that race give a good taste of its 
quality in this struggle in Europe ; and they are going to do it. 

I envy you young people your youth. They have put up the 
age limit for the army, but I march, I am sorry to say, a good 
many years even beyond that. But still our turn will come. It 
is a great opportunity. It only comes once in many centuries to 
the children of men. For most generations sacrifice comes in 
drab weariness of spirit to men. It has come to-day to you ; it 
has come to-day to us all, in the form of the glow and thrill of a 
great movement for liberty, that impels millions throughout 
Europe to the same end. It is a great war for the emancipation 
of Europe from the thraldom of a military caste, which has cast 
its shadow upon two generations of men, and which has now 
plunged the world into a welter of bloodshed. Some have already 

Glamorgan has raised 20,000 men." 


given their lives. There are some who have given more than 
their own lives. They have given the lives of those who are 
dear to them. I honour their courage, and may God be their 
comfort and their strength. 

But their reward is at hand. Those who have fallen have 
consecrated deaths. They have taken their part in the making 
of a new Europe, a new world. I can see signs of its coming in 
the glare of the battlefield. The people will gain more by this 
struggle in all lands than they comprehend at the present 
moment. It is true they will be rid of the menace to their free- 
dom. But that is not all. There is something infi^nitely greater 
and more enduring which is emerging already out of this great 
conflict ; a new patriotism, richer, nobler, more exalted than the 
old. I see a new recognition amongst all classes, high and low, 
shedding themselves of selfishness ; a new recognition that the 
honour of a country does not depend merely on the maintenance 
of its glory in the stricken field, but in protecting its homes from 
distress as well. It is a new patriotism, it is bringing a new 
outlook for all classes. A great flood of luxury and of sloth 
which had submerged the land is receding, and a new Britain is 
appearing. We can see for the first time the fundamental things 
that matter in life and that have been obscured from our vision 
by the tropical growth of prosperity. 

May I tell you, in a simple parable, what I think this war is 
doing for us ? I know a valley in North Wales, between the 
mountains and the sea — a beautiful valley, snug, comfortable, 
sheltered by the mountains from all the bitter blasts. It was 
very enervating, and I remember how the boys were in the habit 
of climbing the hills above the village to have a glimpse of the 
great mountains in the distance and to be stimulated and fresh- 
ened by the breezes which came from the hilltops, and by the 
great spectacle of that great valley. 

We have been living in a sheltered valley for generations. We 
have been too comfortable, too indulgent, many, perhaps, too 
selfish. And the stern hand of fate has scourged us to an eleva- 
tion where we can see the great everlasting things that matter for 
a nation ; the great peaks of honour we had forgotten — duty and 
patriotism, clad in glittering white ; the great pinnacle of sacri- 
fice pointing like a rugged finger to Heaven. We shall descend 
into the valleys again, but as long as the men and women of this 
generation last they will carry in their hearts the image of these 
great mountain peaks, whose foundations are unshaken though 
Europe rock and sway in the convulsions of a great war. 








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